Activist E-lit

This week we saw the way in which electronic literature can be both expressive and polemic at once. Works of electronic literature tagged as “activist” are those defined by the author as politically or socially motivated: they often reflect current conflicts, inequalities, and pressing issues of international social concern. The readings for the week had clear commitments. What has become apparent is that an immersive and interactive story can also be an emotionally powerful experience that transforms a viewer’s understanding.

Our slides:


Thank you Medea for kicking off the evening with a very powerful tour of Motions by Hazel Smith, Will Luers & Roger Dean – an activist multimedia web-book exploring the harrowing reality of human trafficking. An emotional piece about modern day slavery and sexual abuse, it employs visual artifacts combined with dissonant sounds files to capture the fear, dislocation, abuse, exploitation, and oppression experienced by the trafficked victim. The images, videos, and backgrounds of the pages are often abstract, or out of focus and include locations, vivid colours, close ups on peoples faces, and figures in distress. The atmospheric sounds often have a disorienting and relentless quality that enhances the feelings of tension reflected in the text. The work is particularly effective because it bridges the global and globalized nature of indentured servitude with the specificity of individual trauma experienced by victims. Medea provided extensive research on the realities of human trafficking, and she was quite articulate in outlining both the vulnerability and the loss of self that is at the center of this trauma. She also shared a glimpse of her heartfelt understanding of this work via a creative collage she felt compelled to compose as a way to express her synthesis of the work’s meaning. Bravo!

Pieces of Herself

Our discussion of Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis was truly insightful, and it was a joy to read some many smart thoughtful blog posts about this reading.  Thanks to Teethee for her excellent walkthrough. This interactive digital art text makes use of much less lexia than we have seen in the previous e-lit pieces we have explored together.  Instead, this work makes great use of a drag and drop interface – viewers can scroll through familiar environments (i.e. bathroom, living room, outside, the office) to collect metaphorical “pieces” of the self and arrange them in compositions inside the body by dropping them down in a dress-up doll.   The reader/navigator can customize their exploration of the work by filling in the dress-up “paper” doll (or woman’s silhouette).  As each “trace” is dragged into the paper doll silhouette, it triggers animations along with audio clips from interviews with women, music loops, and sound effects, resulting in a layered narrative effect.

We discussed the traces and marks (read “scars”) left behind as a woman lives her life.  The marks left by private and public aspiration, desire, hopes and dreams, and violation too.  There is much challenge and pressure in becoming a woman.  The colorful accumulations on the silhouette emphasize the theme that so many competing ideologies leave lasting marks, imprinting a woman permanently.  Davis’ work emphasizes the irrevocable layering of all the experiences that shape and mark a woman, highlighting the social inscription of the feminized body.

Your to-do list

Read: Icarus Needs (Hugo’s selection)

Read: With Those We Love Alive (Jessie’s selection)

Your seventh blog post is due.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of the Icarus Needs and/or With Those We Love Alive.

Have a restful and replenishing weekend!

Dr. Zamora

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